Practicing Effective Workforce Planning

During the Great Resignation and beyond, it’s important to have the right people in the right roles and future-proof your organization. That’s where workforce planning comes in.
April 22, 2022
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In November 2021, a record 4.53 million Americans quit their jobs. Similar patterns are appearing all across the globe, as we find ourselves in the midst of the so-called “Great Resignation.”

There are many factors contributing to the Great Resignation. The pandemic has certainly played a role, causing people to reassess and shift priorities and mindsets. Many people are seeking an improved work-life balance. Others still are burnt out, while some are changing careers entirely.

Massive-scale resignations leave employers in a lurch. What do they do now? This is where workforce planning enters the picture.

What Is Workforce Planning?

Workforce planning, in a nutshell, means that leadership at an organization is assigning and delegating the most appropriate tasks and responsibilities to the right individuals. Businesses formulate a strategy to ensure that they aren’t facing staffing shortages or redundancies, nor are they overpopulating their offices — virtual or physical — with more employees than they can reasonably accommodate.

This is a delicate balance, especially during uncertain times like the Great Resignation. It requires the input of human resources and recruiters, upper-level management, and every department manager. It also involves leveraging specific tools and technologies.

Workforce planning is part of a business’ overarching strategy, focusing on results first and then accounting for the skills and roles necessary for achieving those results and filling in the gaps. 

Why Is It So Important?

Workforce planning preemptively solves problems that could very well arise in your organization. It allows you to:

  • Account for the skill sets you need at any given time
  • Reduce costs associated with the hiring and onboarding process
  • Better retain employees and ensure that they have a path forward within the company
  • Improve your products and services
  • Improve your company culture
  • Avoid potential catastrophes
  • Assess risk and consequences
  • Prioritize your organizational needs

The Role of Technology in Workforce Planning

While workforce planning is about people — the personnel your business should have in its fold in order to achieve its requisite outcomes — technology is instrumental in carrying out the steps of the process effectively. Today, organizations depend on digital tools for formulating and managing strategies of all kinds, and workforce planning is no different.

Organizations leverage software to generate reports concerning their employees and their overall productivity, for example. Equipped with dashboards that display real-time analytics, workforce planning software can also help you evaluate output versus input, in terms of efforts and payoff, essentially allowing you to see the cost-effectiveness of your employees.

People analytics and performance analytics also play a critical role. This data allows you to assess the relationships between the people themselves and business outcomes, seeing what, precisely, is driving results. 

Even technologies that aren’t specifically branded as workforce planning software can play a role in the process. For example, project management tools help you see the investment and progress of specific initiatives, which, in turn, allows you to identify gaps and consider how you can boost productivity within your organization. 

Human resources platforms and tools also lend a hand. Applicant tracking software (ATS), for instance, helps recruiters identify potentially suitable candidates based on keywords and other factors, without a human professional having to manually scan resumes. Not only does this help you populate your organization and fill roles, but it also enables you to hire a more diverse workforce, since identifying information and demographics are eliminated from the process.

Even payroll systems will give you a clearer picture of your personnel-related expenses and help you see the value employees are bringing to your organization, equipping you with more information to make educated decisions.

The Goals and Phases of Workforce Planning

The overarching goal of workforce planning is to ensure that the right people are in the correct roles for your organization. But there are a number of other goals associated with this process, such as:

  • Supporting your employment and recruitment strategies with concrete data
  • Understanding how your business functions cohesively
  • Making strides toward future-proofing and protecting your business
  • Gaining a competitive advantage in your market and industry
  • Establishing an agile, flexible workforce
  • Incorporating the necessary competencies into your fold

What Are the Steps and Stages Involved in Workforce Planning?

How, then, do you establish an effective workforce planning system and process? This will look a little different depending on the nature, type, and goals of your particular organization, but the stages are generally as follow:

  • Assess the overarching goals of your business
  • Evaluate the roles and responsibilities needed to carry out your organization’s mission and objectives
  • Align these roles with the main goals to formulate new specific objectives regarding personnel
  • Evaluate the market demand for your organization’s services
  • Assess how workforce needs have changed within your industry over time
  • Identify existing holes and gaps within your business
  • Identify redundancies or roles that can be combined
  • Build recruitment strategies to gain the competencies you need within your organization
  • Continue to monitor your performance and adjust your strategies based on your needs at a given time

If you haven’t given ample attention to workforce planning, it’s time to start. This is a critical process for your organization at any time but it’s especially crucial now when businesses of practically every type are grappling with high rates of employee turnover. 

As a forward-thinking business, you must incorporate this process into your fold, giving it the attention it deserves. Moving ahead, will allow you to future-proof your organization and keep you thriving, growing, and realizing success.

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